WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats plan to boycott Thursday's vote in the Judiciary Committee on Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court, according to a source familiar with the plans. It will serve as a sign of protest, but will not ultimately slow down Barrett's confirmation.
Republicans are still expected to have the votes to get Barrett's confirmation out of the Judiciary Committee, and there is no sign that they won't have the votes on the Senate floor to confirm her as soon as Monday.
Democrats say Barrett's nomination is illegitimate because Republicans are refusing to abide by their promise, and their 2016 precedent, to not confirm a justice in an election year. In 2016, the Senate refused to consider Merrick Garland, nominated by President Barack Obama almost eight months before the election.
Democrats on the committee are under mounting pressure from progressives to make a bigger stand against Barrett's confirmation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in particular has been under intense scrutiny by fellow Democrats after praising Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham's handling of the nomination, undercutting Democrats' message. Progressives argue that allowing the nomination to move under normal business terms lends credence to the Republican effort.
Democrats' boycott of the vote, which was first reported by the Huffington Post, would technically require Republicans to violate the committee's quorum requirements, which demand that two members of the minority party be present for votes. Assuming all Republicans on the panel show up, they can easily override the requirement, either by ignoring it or by voting to change the rule. It is unknown how Republicans plan to proceed.
"We're voting at 1 o'clock and all we need is the majority to get her out," Graham, R-S.C., said this week when asked how he would bypass the rule.
If anything, the boycott could allow the committee's Republicans to approve Barrett's nomination "unanimously" and eliminate the chance for Democrats to make speeches about her and her potential impact on the high court.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said earlier this month that Democrats would not provide the quorum if Republicans can't show up.
His remarks came amid concern that some Republicans might still be in COVID-19-related quarantine when the time came for a vote. If they had, it would have presented more hurdles for Republicans. But two GOP senators have since recovered.
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